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New Guinea Information
By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 3, 2003, 21:29

New Guinea, located just north of Australia, is the world's second largest island with some 786,000 kmē of tropical land and an immense ecological value from 11,000 plant species: nearly 600 unique bird species, including the birds of paradise; over 400 amphibians; 455 butterfly species; and a hundred known mammal species. Most of these species are shared, at least in their origin, with the continent of Australia, which was until fairly recent geological times, part of the same landmass. See Australia-New Guinea for an overview.

The western half of New Guinea is called Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) and belongs to Indonesia; the eastern half, Papua New Guinea, has been an independent country since 1975.

Populated by nearly a thousand different Papua Melanesian tribal groups since 45,000 BC, it is the home of the world's oldest independent societies and a staggering number of separate languages.

The first formal colonisation occurred after 1828, when the Netherlands claimed the western half of the island, as part of the Dutch East Indies. In 1883, following a short-lived French annexation of New Ireland, the self-governing colony of Queensland annexed south-eastern New Guinea, although its superiors in the United Kingdom government disallowed this and assumed direct responsibility in 1884, when Germany claimed north-eastern New Guinea as a protectorate.

In 1906 the British government transferred total responsibility for south-east New Guinea to Australia. During World War One, Australian forces seized German New Guinea, which in 1920 became a League of Nations mandated territory of Australia.

The Dutch East Indies and the Australian territories in New Guinea were invaded in 1942 by the Japanese Empire. The highlands, northern and eastern New Guinea became key battlefields in the South West Pacific Theatre of World War Two. Papuans often gave vital assistance to the Allies, fighting alongside Australian and US troops, and carrying equipment and injured men across New Guinea.

Unlike the rest of the Dutch East Indies, which became independent as Indonesia in 1949, western New Guinea remained a colony of the Netherlands until 1963, when Indonesia gained control. In 1975, Australia granted full independence to Papua New Guinea. The PNG flag has a yellow bird of paradise on a red diagonal field above the southern cross stars on a black field next to the flag pole.

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